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VOL. 128 | NO. 36 | Thursday, February 21, 2013

Humes Middle School Future Plans Debated

By Bill Dries

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The Achievement School District wants to move its Gordon Science & Arts Academy out of Gordon Elementary School next school year and into Humes Middle School.

Humes Middle School could close at the end of the current school year and be converted to an optional school operated by the consolidated school system.  

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

Leaders of the state-run school district for the lowest 5 percent of schools in the state in terms of student achievement confirm they’ve been talking with Memphis City Schools leaders about the move.

It comes after the countywide school board already voted late last year to close Humes as a conventional middle school and reopen it in August as Bravo Academy, an optional school for the musical arts.

Jeremy Jones, communications director for the ASD, said Tuesday, Feb. 19, the discussions so far include “as a measure of collaboration, possibly co-locating the school with an arts program.

Gestalt Community Schools operates a charter school at Gordon for the Achievement School District that this school year took the sixth graders zoned to Humes with the additional two grades to come in future school years.

“This year’s move to the Gordon campus was temporary and at the request of MCS,” Jones said in an email.

The Gordon operation is also a co-location schools model, coexisting with a conventional elementary school at the school.

Memphis City Schools staff originally recommended closing Gordon last year as they also recommended the conversion of Humes to an optional school run next school year by what will be the consolidated school system. The plan was to turn all of Gordon over to the Achievement School District.

But MCS superintendent Kriner Cash dropped the plans to explore closing Gordon after ASD superintendent Chris Barbic made it clear Gordon was not under consideration for his district.

Meanwhile, Cash – with board approval – moved ahead with plans to close Humes and convert it to an optional school.

Cash left as superintendent at the end of January and Barbic began talking with interim Memphis City Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

At next week’s school board meeting, Hopson could ask the board to reaffirm or let him know what if any changes they want to make in the plans for Humes.

And Hopson, who prior to his appointment was Memphis City Schools general counsel, said the Achievement School District is taking the position it can take Humes as part of its district despite plans for the optional school.

“The ASD is saying not withstanding that action, they still have a right to Humes,” Hopson told school board members. “I think as a matter of law we could debate that. But I wanted to bring that to the board’s attention and see where you wanted to go with that.”

If the talks move away from co-location and become a legal argument, something Hopson says has not happened yet, Hopson mapped out the school system’s position.

“The board always has the right to close the school and if it is closed, it’s no longer eligible for the ASD,” he said, noting the Achievement School District takes the position the school is still eligible if it reopens the next school year.

“If we can come up with something that is not precedent setting, that’s best for kids, everybody wins,” Hopson also noted as he talked of a co-location agreement as an option and the “extremely fragile” population the schools in the area serve.

Some school board members are concerned about a legal conflict.

“I sure don’t want that type of partnership,” said school board member Kevin Woods. “You compete with the ASD not through trickery, but through providing quality education.”

“We went and repurposed a building to keep it out of the ASD – that’s the way it looks,” added school board member David Reaves. “I think I understand the reason they are kind of irritated about it.”

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